Monday, May 23, 2011


No, class, I'm not talking about sex, though that could be subsumed by my general topic. To adulterate means to dilute something or substitute inferior ingredients or components. My launching pad today is soap. Hence, blather about lather. My wife recently bought me a bar of Pears soap, which she knew to be one of my favorites. Since she only buys such things at bargain prices, I hadn't had any for a year or more. Now, Pears is a venerable soap, having first been made in England over two-hundred years ago. It was touted as the first "transparent" soap, though the correct word would be "translucent". This is fairly common today and is really just a novelty. I could care less whether one could read text through a bar; for me the unique scent of the soap was pleasing. Pears contained rosin, as well as thyme and several other herbs. In addition, it worked well. It was basically a natural product.

By now you're thinking, A fetish for soap, ehhh . . . Perhaps . . . but I like natural products, with as few unnecessary ingredients as possible. Also, I have made soap several times. The basic ingredients were tallow, olive and cocoanut oil, and lye. The lye saponifies the fats and oils, and this produces the soap. Any other additions are for color, scent, or healing properties. The process is laborious and smelly and is best done outdoors. After the soap is poured into molds, it must age for several weeks. It is then cut into bars.

When I eagerly unwrapped my new bar of Pears, I found it didn't smell quite the same. It had a perfumy note, like some chi-chi ladies' soap. I looked at the ingredients list on the box. To my horror, it listed 24 ingredients! The leading ingredient was sorbitol. This is a sugar alcohol used as an artificial sweetener. Why it was listed as the leading ingredient of a bar of soap is not known to me, unless the bar was intended to be eaten. My favorite soap had been reduced to a chemical stew. I noted on the box that the soap was produced in India under license from England. My first outraged question was, Why? Was the motive economic? Did it cost less to make this faux Pears? Perhaps. . . .

This adulteration, this substitution, this cheapening is happening to many things around the world. Often the motive is economic. Profit margins are shrinking. Without going "green" on my readers (God forbid!), I would guess that increasing population, conglomeration of businesses, and centralization of production would have something to do with this trend. But I don't think this explains everything. There is a strange, underlying sense that "they" want us to be aware that nothing stays the same, that change is the only constant. At various levels, choices are being made for us, and many of them seem arbitrary. As to who "they" are, I have my suspicions; readers of my older posts will know who I mean. Terms such as Illuminati or Bilderbergers have no real meaning. The powers behind the thrones will use whomever they need to do as they wish.

Tradition is now a dirty word in some circles. Since the past cannot be changed, some people feel it must be ignored. There has always been rebellion by the young against the established. That goes without saying, and cannot be stopped. The dialectic of thesis vs. antithesis equals synthesis is as old as humanity. Unfortunately youth lacks one vital quality: perspective. But it comes at a price: inflexibility. Wisdom is the accretion of perspective modified by experience. Some wisdom, at least, must be passed on as tradition. Destroying a good soap simply because you can is at least foolish; doing it to make more money is wicked. I am a poet. One of my influences was T. S. Eliot. In his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" he advised us to know and understand what past poets had done, before we did something different. You don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Founts of Misinformation

Well, fans (all five of you), here I am again--having taken off time for bad behavior. I have decided to return to my outrageous haunts: mini-essays either irrelevant or irreverant, sometimes both. I am, as always, a poet, so concision and compression are my fortes. I propose to stick a few barbs into a sacred cow or two, from my aging, hidebound, reactionary point of view. The old bull(shitter) fixes his nearsighted eyes on a sacred cow, paws the ground, and lumbers into action.

I wish to gore thatInternet ox of information, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, with a few stabs at and other arbiters of correctness. I will be the first to admit to consulting Wikipedia (or, as I sometimes call it, Wickedpedia), and I do so fairly frequently. On simple matters of fact, I have found it to be both concise and accurate. I have no quarrel with most entries I have read. Wikipedia claims that almost anyone can post and edit its contents. It was created by a small group, however, and continues to be governed from behind the public purview. Reader participation is invited; given the scope of information covered, it is necessary. Thus the revolutionary nature of the work. What bothers me, from my perspective of general conservatism and evangelical Christianity, is its growing bias in favor of a liberal, humanist worldview.

I am not going to cite examples of what I consider to be bias or misinformation. That's not my point. I feel there is is a filter in place that slants what we read on Wikipedia in a particular direction. There have been instances of the deletion of all or part of certain "controversial" articles, and these are often ones written from a conservative direction. As I said above, I appreciate the breadth and scope of Wikipedia and frequently use it, but I don't trust it very far. Editors can and do remain anonymous. Some have gone through the site and scrubbed references to certain topics. For instance, one altered many posts regarding Islam, changing things he perceived as antagonistic. Pseudonymity can enable vandalism as well as courage.

Your picador is now going to brandish a sword or two at and , two sites that claim to be reliable, if not final, sources of information. The first is run by a husband and wife who are admittedly liberal supporters of President Obama; the second is run by the Annenberg Foundation. At the instigation of terrorist/scholar Bill Ayers, this foundation was instrumental in backing Obama's rise to power. Now, if you are a left-wing "Democrat", this is all well and good. If, however, you are conservative, this makes some things learned from these two sites suspect.

Dear readers, I take anything these three sites put out with a heap of seasalt. The primary goal of education should be the ability to think for oneself. Facts are good, especially if proven to be true. Propaganda and indoctrination are not, no matter which direction one is pointed in. Read a book!